House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigrants.


6:25 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in January I asked a question in this House concerning a statement made by our Prime Minister. The Prime Minister told this House that the medium lift helicopters and the unmanned aerial drones were already on order.

In fact, neither contract had been signed, contrary to what the Prime Minister stated, and at that time there was no agreement in place to obtain the helicopters' unmanned aerial drones for our soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. This week, we have learned that the Canadian government has partnered with the United States in obtaining the needed military equipment.

However, I should not have to stand in this House to remind the government that Canadians deserve the truth and they expect honest answers from those who are chosen to represent them in this place.

The amount of misinformation that has surrounded Canada's mission in Afghanistan is flabbergasting, to say the least. It begs the question as to whether the misinformation is an intended effort to mislead Canadians on this very important mission, or does the government simply not know what is going on in Afghanistan?

Last spring, we were told there was no evidence of torture with regard to Afghan detainees. Even while officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs, national and international media sources, and even the president of Afghanistan himself, all acknowledged the use of torture by Afghan security forces, the Conservative government simply dismissed these allegations as Taliban propaganda.

For more than a year, the Conservative government has insisted Afghan detainees were being treated fairly and in accordance with the Geneva convention. As we know now, this is simply not the case.

In another confusing incident last summer, the defence minister at the time said that NATO had been notified about the end of our mission. This was not the case at all. For several weeks, we heard contrary remarks from various representatives of the Conservative government as to the future direction of our mission in Afghanistan.

Those were confusing times for members of this House. Those were confusing times for Canadians. And certainly those were confusing times for members of the Canadian Forces.

This Parliament, through the efforts of the official opposition, has been successful in bringing clarity to Canada's future in Afghanistan. However, with its extensive history of mishandling and with the extensive misinformation in this House, can we really count on this government being able to honour its commitments?

Liberals believe that clarity, honesty and transparency are absolutely essential in our mission in Afghanistan. We must work hard to restore Canadians' faith in the Afghan mission, which has been dramatically undermined by the constant contradictions that have flowed from this government.

Today in the question of the week, the Thursday question that the opposition House leader asks the government, the government was asked when it is going to strike the committee that it undertook to report to Parliament to make sure that Canadians and Parliament have transparent access to good information. What did we get? We got a non-answer and heckling by the chief government whip.

Canadians must have faith that core values, including respect for human rights and the belief in the dignity of all people, are at the heart of this mission and that Canadians have a transparent, clear view of what our role is as it evolves in Afghanistan.

6:30 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy listening to the fantasies coming out of the mouth of the member for Kitchener Centre.

Allow me first, though, to say how pleased we are by the initial outcomes of the NATO summit in Bucharest. The commitments made by our allies are good news for Canada and good news for NATO.

More important, though, the additional troops are good news for the people of Afghanistan, who are working hard to rebuild their lives. We will certainly be discussing the specifics of the additional troop commitments with our allies in the coming months.

An enhanced NATO presence will allow the Canadian Forces to consolidate and expand stability and security operations in Kandahar, which will further allow our development and governance efforts to take root. The commitment of additional troops satisfies one of the important conditions set out in the motion adopted by the House to extend our contributions to the United Nations mandated NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.

Another important recommendation put forward by the independent panel on the future of Afghanistan was the requirement for high performance UAV and helicopter capabilities for our troops in Afghanistan. We are well on our way to achieving that goal. We certainly appreciate our allies' efforts to assist with our need for additional helicopters, including the recent announcement by Poland that it will deploy additional helicopters to Afghanistan.

The government continues to demonstrate its commitment to providing our troops with the equipment and protection they need to fulfill their tasks. To that end, we have significantly enhanced our capabilities in the field.

For example, our new route clearance vehicles are reducing the risk of convoy travel. We are also making arrangements to keep the Leopard 2 tanks in theatre until the end of the Canadian mission.

With respect to helicopters and UAVs, we have been working for some time now to procure capabilities for domestic and international operations, including Afghanistan. I can assure members of the House that the government is actively working on accelerating the acquisition process to provide our troops with the equipment they need.

For example, the Department of National Defence has already announced its intention to acquire Chinook helicopters for domestic and overseas operations. This project has been approved by cabinet and it is anticipated that a contract will be awarded this year.

To address our immediate needs, the government is currently exploring a number of options with our allies and industry.

For example, we are looking at the possibility of acquiring Chinooks that are already configured for U.S. army operations in Afghanistan. We are also exploring leasing options with industry and are looking at our existing fleets to determine what might be possible.

Leasing civilian helicopters is also common practice in Afghanistan. Private companies are already providing this service to the UN, the Afghan government and some of our NATO allies for operations in lower risk areas.

With respect to UAVs, we are currently working with our colleagues at Public Works and Government Services Canada on a number of options to provide our troops with high performance UAVs as soon as possible.

In fact, we have a three year project called Noctua, aimed at leasing high performance, long endurance UAVs capable of intelligence gathering throughout the Canadian Forces' area of operations in Afghanistan. This project will be a substantial improvement over what we currently have in theatre and is expected to be operational in theatre by February 2009.

A letter of interest to industry has already been posted on the Internet and it is anticipated that a request for proposal will be released very soon.

Our government is also working on the purchase of long-range UAV systems for domestic and international operations, including maritime and Arctic surveillance. We are working to deliver these capabilities as quickly as possible in order to meet the safety and security requirements of our troops and are confident that we can deliver these capabilities by February 2009.

These initiatives highlight our commitment to rebuilding the Canadian Forces and ensuring the safety of our men and women in Afghanistan.

After decades of darkness, some of which I lived through, I can tell members that the men and women of the Canadian Forces are not confused at all about what we are doing in Afghanistan. They are not confused at all about what the government is doing for them. We are going to continue to get the job done, with or without the help of the opposition.

6:35 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting way for the parliamentary secretary to end his intervention, because if it were not for this opposition party coming together with what was a Canadian motion, with a Canadian stand in Afghanistan, I really do scratch my head at what this minority government thinks it would have done for our men and women in Afghanistan.

Clearly there is a line in the sand. The parliamentary secretary mentions that we are a member of NATO. It was a Liberal government, under the auspices of NATO and at the invitation of President Karzai, that went into Afghanistan in the first place.

I would like know that Canadians have a transparent and clear view of what we are doing as we go forward. Quite clearly, I think there has been evidence that the government has used the motions in the House as political cover for this very important mission, so I would not want the House to be misled in any way. It would be very refreshing to have Canadians and parliamentarians know what is going on in Afghanistan as we move from the current--

6:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt again and give the floor to the hon. parliamentary secretary.

6:35 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite right when she says it was the Liberals who sent us there. It was the Liberals who prosecuted World War II and Korea. That is what we were trying to remind them of in spite of some of their opposition early on when we were trying to bring resolution 4 to the House.

We had to remind them of their own history so that they would in fact do the right thing, which ultimately they did. We applaud them for that, because Liberals and Conservatives together have always done the right thing in history when it comes to international obligations like this.

In terms of being open and transparent, when people do not pay attention, they do not hear what is being said. When we choose not to pay attention, we do not hear the facts. When we choose to ignore the facts that we hear, then we can stand up, say whatever we want and accuse a government or anybody else of not telling us the facts.

We have to listen to actually hear what is going on. Sometimes those members do and sometimes they do not.

6:35 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary says that some people do not hear. It is absolutely true. He has not been listening for a long while on the Wheat Board, so I will try again tonight.

The question asked of the government on December 3 was whether former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney had lobbied the government, as a member of the board of directors of the transnational grain company Archer Daniels Midland, to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board.

The government, which includes the Prime Minister, has relied on Mr. Mulroney to provide advice and guidance. One thing the former prime minister has demonstrated is his expertise at making money for his clients. ADM is most certainly a client the former prime minister would want to see succeed, especially since he is on the board of directors.

In that light, the House should be made aware of the following with respect to who will benefit from the government's fevered ideological drive to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. The problem is, where are most of the winners from the government's drive to undermine the board? They are south of the 49th parallel in the United States, especially among the multinational grain trade.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, in a November 2005 study, outlined the consequences of the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board and the Australian Wheat Board. It stated:

The...proposal to eliminate monopoly export rights would effectively kill both the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and...the Australian Wheat Board....The elimination of the CWB and AWB Ltd would do nothing to increase export competition for grains; the giants of the industry (Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge and Dreyfus) will basically absorb the Canadian and Australian supply into their existing global grain processing and trading businesses....CWB and AWB Ltd. offer an effective second-best solution to the market failures and imperfections inherent in bulk commodity trading. Their private counterparts are much less constrained by public oversight and, at least for the producers they deal with, offer less benefit.

A report prepared by the Center for Agricultural Policy and Trade Studies at North Dakota State University found that if the Wheat Board were to be eliminated:

The U.S. and Canadian markets would become more integrated without the CWB, making it possible for multinational grain companies to buy wheat in Canada and export it from U.S. ports.

The beneficiaries of the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board have been enumerated in many United States studies. It is unbelievable that the Government of Canada, in putting forward this proposal, failed to do any studies or economic analysis. In fact, a study prepared for United States Senator Kent Conrad in November 2004 found that:

If the CWB's single-desk authority is eliminated, the advantages enjoyed by the CWB will disappear and the United States may become more competitive in offshore markets.

Again, the U.S. is gaining at the expense of Canadians.

The efforts of the Conservative government to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board have attracted the appreciative attention of the United States wheat industry. It is that time the Canadian government worked for Canadian farmers.

6:40 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan


David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is good that the member opposite has chosen to stay away from the topic of his question. It showed how out of touch he was in December, and it certainly shows how out of touch he is on this file today.

At the time he asked the question, he had the ridiculous notion that he was going to try to tie Brian Mulroney to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. His notion flopped back in December. It seems like he did not learn his lesson then, so he is back again.

I am told the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food does not personally know, nor has he ever met, Mr. Mulroney. I am also told that Archer Daniels Midland has never met with the minister. Therefore, the member for Malpeque, as usual, is batting zero. This time he is zero for two, and I think he is probably zero for 1,000 on the Canadian Wheat Board file.

He also thinks that giving freedom to farmers is somehow going to benefit big companies. We heard a bit of a rant about that today. He does not realize that farmers in western Canada see the Wheat Board as one of the biggest companies of all. Most of them want some freedom from it. A majority of them are asking for freedom.

It was interesting. His words were that if farmers had freedom, they would be more integrated with the United States market. Does this mean that this year Canadian farmers would have then had access to the $20 plus for durum to which the United States producers had access, while our producers were getting less than half of that?

We are used to hearing these illogical and extreme rants from the member opposite, but his question from December really shows that he has completely lost his grip on this file.

6:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

No grip lost here, Mr. Speaker, just the facts and that is what the parliamentary secretary tries to avoid.

Again, he fails to mention that the Canadian Wheat Board is made up of a board of directors of farm producers elected by their peers. There is another quote that I want to put on the record in terms of how bad the decision of the government really is in terms of U.S. influence. Agriculture Canada made this statement at a conference in North Dakota a few years ago:

--the Wheat Board should not be viewed as an independent entity but as an extension of producers themselves into grain marketing. Through collective action, producers are able to counteract the market power of domestic railways, handling companies and international grain marketing firms just the way a credit union helps ordinary people cope with concentrated market power in local financial markets.

That is what the Wheat Board does for producers in Canada.

6:45 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, the issue has always been simple. Western Canadian farmers want a fair and open system to market their grains. They want the freedom to make business decisions that work best for them.

This government has listened to farmers and that is quite different from the decade of neglect that was shown by the previous Liberal government. We are actually taking action. We are working to provide what farmers are asking for.

The member just listens to a few people. He selectively picks the people he wants to hear and he tries to weave some great and vast conspiracy out of that.

This government was elected to provide freedom for western Canadian farmers. We were elected to update and improve the marketing and transportation of grain, and we look forward to doing that for western Canadian farmers.

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:47 p.m.)